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Which RS tour has the most opportunities for hiking?

My husband and I are planning to go on our first RS tour next year. We were looking at possibly doing Best of Europe in 21 days or the Best of Italy in 17 days, or really any of the RS tours, they all look amazing!

We are both big hikers and we were wondering which tour offers the most opportunity to hike and explore nature? Any suggestions/comments from people who have previously gone on any RS tours would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
15117 posts

If you are that interested in hiking, I suggest you look at the hiking trips offered by REI Adventures, Mountain Travel Sobek, or other companies that offer active, hiking-focused trips.

Within the past year, we have done two hiking trips with REI ( Slovenia last autumn and Tour du Mont Blanc this last August). Both were wonderful experiences, with the Slovenia trip being more of a cultural werience, while the Tour du Mont Blanc being much more about hiking ( strenuous hikes every day).

While we have never done an RS tour, my impression is they are not all that active in the outdoors, and if you want to get out and hike you may feel frustrated. It sounds like the GAS tour gives you a free day in the Berner Oberland, where you can get out and hike, but that is not much.

Posted by
13237 posts

The GAS tour has 2 days in the Berner Oberland. One day has some group activity but you can easily skip it and do more strenuous hikes in the area. Some people hiked on the free afternoon in Baden-Baden as well as the free afternoon in Hallstatt. I skipped going in to Neuschwanstein Castle (had been there before) and walked partway around the lake but it was not strenuous. On that day your choices are limited as you are seeing this area while you are in transit from the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland to Munich so the stop is just for a couple of hours. Some on my trip walked near Salzburg Castle which looked wooded but I did not go up there so can’t give you firsthand info.

The 21 BOE is a fabulous tour - really, my favorite out of the 10 I’ve done, but has quite a few cities. As a group we did around 10-12 miles on the full days in Amsterdam and Rome so you get plenty of walking in. Rome has tons of steps too, lol. There was a full day in Berner Oberland that is free. My guide had optional activities if people wanted to join him which included going to the top of the Schilthorn, then in the afternoon hiking from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg (easy hike but just jaw-droppingly beautiful). Other guides might do things differently but hiking is doable on that day. This tour also stops at Neuschwanstein so some hiking could be squeezed in on that day. It’s NOT a transit day on this tour so you could hike out of Reutte if you wanted to skip the group activity. There are 2 nights/1 full day in Cinque Terre where some in my group hiked. Can’t think of any other opportunities for hikes on this tour.

Best of England had a couple opportunities. There is a free afternoon in Bath that you could use to hike a scenic vista hike (blanking on the real name right now) or take a long walk along the Kennet and Avon canal. There was a walk with the guide in the Cotswolds and then a free day in the Lake District where you could hike out of Keswick. I walked up to Castlerigg stone circle on my own altho most of it was along populated roads.

I’ve not done the Best of Italy.

In general I’d agree that the RS tours aren’t particularly hiking focused. While you could skip activities to hike in some instances, you might miss some neat sights.

To me I’d say the GAS tour offered the most opportunity for working hiking in.

I’ve also done hiking programs with Road Scholar. I did one in England although they appear to have changed the focus a bit. When I went it was focused on Iron Age hill forts. I thought this would be fascinating but in the’ve seen one Iron Age hill fort, you’ve seen them all!

Posted by
1745 posts

Perhaps the my way alpine europe tour? Days are relatively unstructured so plenty of time to do your own thing. Hits the Dolomites, Lauterbrunnen and Charmonix.

Posted by
7840 posts

Best of Switzerland has a day in Murren and a day in Lugano completely free for independent activities and hiking would be a great choice at both locations. In addition, if you read through the different daily itineraries, you will note the afternoon and evenings are free about 1/2 of the other days.

If you want a Rick Steves Tour with maximum hiking opportunities, I think it is Best of Switzerland.

Posted by
771 posts

I second the suggestion for the Alpine My Way tour. We did it this past spring, and while we are moderate hikers, there were several active hikers who got in long hikes at many of the locations and chose this tour for those reasons.

  • In the Dolomites, you can spend all day in the Alpe di Siusi, the high Alpine meadow. Rick describes many of these in the book you receive, which are also in his Italy book. (For the tour you receive an Alpine book which has cobbled together the appropriate sections from his various country books.)
  • In Fussen you can see the castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) if you choose, then rent bikes and ride one of the many bike routes. We rented bikes for the day, rode out to the castles for the views only, then spent the day cycling through the countryside
  • With 3 nights in the Lauterbrunnen Valley area, there are hikes galore through spectacular mountain scenery. Again Rick describes them in his Switzerland book. A very helpful poster, Shoe, has created a website of hikes in the Lauterbrunnen Valley which he will sent to you if you ask him.
  • In Chamonix there are multiple options. The lifts to Mont Blanc were under repair when we were there, but there are lifts on the other side of the valley as well. The hearty hikers took a bus to a town a few miles away, then a lift up, then hiked a 4-5 hour hike back. We went up Mount Brevent, and watched the paraglider, and hiked a bit of the trail I just mentioned from the other end. These are explained in Rick's France book.

If you search Scrapbook Contest in the Search window above, you can see some previous entries to his contest. In 2016, Stan Seys submitted a scrapbook that has lots of reference to hiking. (This tour used to spend 1 night in Hallstatt and 2 in Lauterbrunnen, but they dropped Hallstatt and now spend 3 in Lauterbrunnen which gives a much better chance for good weather in the mountains.)

You certainly don't have to be looking to hike to enjoy this tour, but there are lots of amazing opportunities to do so.
On the the My Way tours you plan your own days, so you do what you want. The tour managers do an amazing job of explaining lots of options, and are available to answer questions on the bus and every day after breakfast.

Posted by
8203 posts

From your description, I wouldn't think any of them would meet your criterion. Walking yes, but hiking, no. They are designed for group activities with some free time, but mostly in cities.

Posted by
308 posts

My husband and I just went on My Way Alpine Europe and the hiking was fantastic. For pure hiking, you get one full day in the Dolomites, two full days in Switzerland, and one full day in Chamonix. We even had an amazing hike from Fussen to the castles. It's nice to have "recovery" days on the bus. One of the days in Switzerland we walked 18 miles.

Posted by
5828 posts

Another option is to book a shorter RS guided tour and add a follow on self-guided hiking tour to conclude a 21 day holiday.

We have used Contours Walking Holidays for self-guided UK village to village walking tours but their offerings are UK limited. British walkiers have a high reagard for HF Holidays as walking tour provider that offers Contiental self-guided tours in addition to UK walks. Macs Advanture also offers self-guided tous but I have no personal knowlege of the firm.

Self-guide tours are booked through an agency that arranges a day to day walking itinerary and maps and guidebooks or instructions are included. They books overnight acommodations to match that itinearary. Luggage transfer service is typically included. The firms will offer advice on getting to and from your starting and finishing points. You just have to do the walking.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for your comments! I'll definitely be looking into everyone's suggestions to figure out what the best trip would be for us. :-)

Posted by
101 posts

I'd also recommend looking at Backroads walking/hiking trips - our experience with Backroads has been excellent.

Posted by
2102 posts

We did the RS Eastern France tour and there was a family of serious hikers on that tour. There was time to hike in Chamonix and you could hike between Sarlat and Vaison La Romaine. Unless it's a travel day, you frequently have afternoons free, and you could take that time for hiking. Several tours have built in free days; just check the itineraries to see where you could fit in hiking.

Posted by
512 posts

We loved My Way Alpine Europe because of the hiking and beautiful scenery. This year we tried the Village Italy Tour because of the wonderful destinations, but most days it wasn't physically active enough for us.

Posted by
657 posts

I join the voices for Alpine My Way tour. At each stop we were able to do fabulous hikes at our own pace. In the Dolomites we hiked with others on our tour but other places we did our own hiking. The tour manager was able to provide valuable information regarding which routes might be best for us. This tour is much more "nature" oriented than museum/art oriented.

Posted by
331 posts

We did the Best of Italy tour last fall and hiked up to the castle in Varenna before meeting the group the day the tour started. We also enjoyed the group hike in the Dolomites and hiking in the Cinque Terre. We did smaller "walks" in the less commercial part of Bellagio, though we could have also gone across Lake Como and done a more strenuous hike up to a chapel outside the town across the lake from Varenna (not remembering the name right now); early morning walk up a hill behind our hotel in Castelrotto (interesting Stations of the Cross to see along the way); and around the grounds of the agriturismo in Umbria. So while not a hiking tour, there were opportunities to get out of the urban areas and into some nature. And we LOVED the tour overall.

I'm glad to see all the positive reviews of the My Way Alpine tour. We enjoy hiking and that tour sounded very appealing. But first--the Cotswold Way from end to end! [Not a Rick Steves tour :-) ]